Dark chocolate, heritage of the Mayan culture of Central America, which discovered it and began to consume it more than 2,000 years ago, has been the subject of scientific studies in the last decade that support some of its preventive properties.
Cocoa is rich in plant chemicals called flavonoids that can help protect the heart.
A study conducted by the University of Cambridge, in the United Kingdom, also linked the consumption of dark chocolate with a reduction in a third of the risk of developing heart disease.
After analyzing the results of seven studies involving more than 100,000 participants with and without ongoing heart disease, they found that higher levels of dark chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in risk of cardiovascular disease and a reduction in heart disease. 29% risk of stroke, compared to the lowest levels of consumption.
Experts believe that the reduction in heart risk is due to the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of chocolate.
Pure chocolate (100% cocoa), without sweeteners or emulsifiers, contains a large amount of flavonoids, in particular one called procyanidin, which has demonstrated its protective power against ischemic heart disease and stroke.
Dark chocolate contains up to 2-3 times more flavanol-rich cocoa solids than milk chocolate. Flavonoids have been shown to support the production of nitric oxide in endolithium (the inner cell lining of blood vessels) which helps relax blood vessels and improve blood flow, thereby lowering blood pressure.
The flavonoids in chocolate can increase insulin sensitivity, as shown in short-term studies; In the long term, this could reduce the risk of diabetes.
A 2014 study published in the journal FASEB Journal revealed that dark chocolate helped restore the flexibility of the arteries, in addition to preventing leukocytes from sticking to the walls of blood vessels.
Both are risk factors for atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries in which fatty material builds up on the wall of these blood vessels and causes progressive deterioration and reduced blood flow.
Dark chocolate is one of the richest sources of polyphenols. A small serving of dark chocolate (40 grams or about 1 and 1/2 ounces) contains 400-800 mg of polyphenols, while 10 grams of cocoa powder contains approximately 600 mg.
Polyphenols are micronutrients that we obtain through certain foods of plant origin. They are packed with antioxidants and potential health benefits.
Polyphenols are believed to improve or help treat digestion problems, weight control difficulties, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease.
In 2013 they were published in Journal of Psychopharmacology The results of the first clinical study that showed that dark chocolate containing a high content of cocoa benefited the mood.
The researchers of the Swinburne University Center for Human Psychopharmacology, Melbourne, Australia observed that cocoa polyphenols had a positive impact on anxiety and improved depression.
Milk chocolate has significantly fewer polyphenols, while white chocolate has none.
An area of growing interest in the field of polyphenols is their potential interaction with the gut microbiota.
Although the mechanisms are not fully understood, it is hypothesized that polyphenol metabolites may promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria while inhibiting invasive species.
Sources: scientific studies, Harvard University TC Chan School of Public Health.